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Sikhism and restorative justice: Theory and practice.

Singh, Pashaura
June 4, 2015

Source: (2001) In The spiritual roots of restorative justice, ed. Michael L. Hadley, 199-216. With an introduction by Michael L. Hadley. SUNY series in religious studies, ed. Harold Coward. Albany, New York, USA: State University of New York Press.

In this paper, Singh explores what Sikh teachings in text, tradition, and practice say about criminal justice in general, and about restorative justice in particular. The key term for justice in the Sikh tradition is niau. A closely related term is the Punjabi word dharma (righteousness), indicating justice in the sense of the moral order that provides harmony and social stability. Significant issues discussed by Singh include the following: the Sikh understanding of divine justice; whether divine justice is essentially retributive or restorative; what the Sikh view of justice says about mercy, reconciliation, personal responsibility, vindication, negotiation, forgiveness, healing, and transformation of human situations; and the Sikh approach to conflict resolution. For example, in the Adi Granth (the sacred scripture of the Sikhs), he finds an emphasis on the virtues of mercy, forgiveness, compassion, and benevolence; these provide foundations for healing and reconciliation. In Sikh theology the primacy of divine grace over the theory of karma promotes a restorative approach in the justice process. Also consistent with restorative ideas and practices is the imposition of tanakhah on certain kinds of offenders in the Sikh community. It is a penalty usually consisting of a kind of “community serviceâ€? performed in the offender’s congregation; its purpose is to restore the offender individually and socially into the community. In general then, Singh concludes there is much support for restorative justice in the Sikh tradition.


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